by Mollie Weisenfeld
As summer draws to a close, this FIVE IN BLOOM highlights another five Bloomers with publications forthcoming or recently released this year. So add these titles to your pile for when the leaves are falling on a crisp cool day, or when there is snow coming down in buckets—if you can imagine such a change!
Lucia Berlin was an American short story writer. Born in 1936 in Juneau, Alaska, she traveled with her family all over the world, following her father’s mining engineer jobs. She lived in NYC during the Beats era, marrying a sculptor, then two jazz musicians who had been friends, over the course of 6 years. She struggled with alcoholism until the early 1990s, raising her four sons while battling her addiction.
Berlin supported her family with a series of blue collar jobs such as telephone switchboard operator, which informed her writing. She did not begin publishing collections until 1981, at age 45, with her first book Angels Laundromat. She taught creative writing at the San Francisco County Jail before taking a teaching position at UC Boulder in 1994, which was also the year her double scoliosis punctured her lung. She used an oxygen tank the rest of her life.
Berlin died of lung cancer on her 68th birthday, in 2004. Despite winning the American Book Award in 1991, she did not achieve literary prominence until the posthumous publication of her selected stories by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux in 2015. A Manual for Cleaning Women was a New York Times bestseller by its second week and has outsold all her previous books combined. The stories are based on her own working class jobs and are brutal and witty. Now, FSG will publish a second collection in November, titled Evening in Paradise.
Anuradha Roy was born in India in 1967 and grew up mainly in Hyderabad. She studied English literature at Presidency College, then went on to the University of Calcutta and University of Cambridge. She is a writer with a visual, visceral style and often analyzes the postcolonial inheritance of her home country.
Roy’s first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, was published by Free Press in 2008 when she was 41 years old. It has been translated into fifteen languages. She was nominated for the Man Booker Prize for her third novel, Sleeping on Jupiter. Her fourth novel, All the Lives We Never Lived, will be published in November in the U.S. by Atria Books, and follows a young boy, Myshkin, as he searches for his mother in India during World War II.
Roy and her husband run a small independent academic press in India called Permanent Black, focusing on South Asian scholarship.
David Chariandy was born in Scarborough, Canada, in 1969. He received his master’s degree from Carleton and his doctorate from York University. He teaches English literature at Simon Fraser University.
Chariandy’s first novel, Soucouyant, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2007 when he was 38 years old. In 2017 he won the Rogers’ Writers Trust Fiction Prize for his second novel Brother. His latest publication is a memoir in the vein of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijewele. Chariandy’s book was published in May by Penguin Random House Canada (forthcoming in the US in 2019 from Bloomsbury). Written as a letter to his thirteen-year-old daughter, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You explores his mixed race roots (White, Black, South Asian, Trinidadian) as well as his family’s life in Canada on the border of Trump’s America.
Marcia Douglas was born in the UK in 1961, to Jamaican parents. When she was six the family moved to Kingston, Jamaica, and within the year converted to a strict sect of Christianity. She felt between countries and cultures for much of her childhood. After high school, in 1978, she traveled to visit her aunt in Florida on a three-week visa and discovered that her mother had written an accompanying letter to her aunt, asking to let Douglas stay beyond the visa.
She attended Oakwood College, then Ohio State for her master’s, and finally SUNY Binghamton for her doctorate in English. Douglas became a US citizen in January 2000 and teaches African American/Caribbean literature and creative writing at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Douglas’ work is known for interrogating the novel form using poetry and lyrical styles. She attributes this creative method to the Caribbean consciousness of “mixing disparate things together [to] make something new.”
Madam Fate was Douglas’ first novel, published by The Women’s Press in 1999, when she was 38 years old. Her third novel was published in the UK in 2016 by Peepal Tree Press, an independent publisher of Caribbean and Black British writing, and recently in the U.S. by New Directions in July 2018. The Marvelous Equations of the Dead: A Novel in Bass Riddim features a fictionalized Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey, and “takes place in the worlds of the living and in the vivid afterlife of the dead, spanning Kingston ghettoes, the Emperor’s palace in Addis Ababa, and Zion.”
Cristina Rivera Garza was born in Matamoros, Mexico, in 1964 and knew she wanted to be a writer from her teenage years. Her grandparents were miners and farmworkers who crisscrossed the border and experienced deportation. Her father was a scientist, and so she grew up reading biographies of great inventors and botanists. Rivera Garza studied sociology at ENEP-Actalán, then earned her Master’s in Latin American history at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Houston and now directs their bilingual creative writing program.
Much of Rivera Garza’s work is written in Spanish, and though she was published early in that language and has won six of Mexico’s greatest literary honors, translations were slow to follow. Her first translation into English was in 2003, when she was 39 years old. Nadie me verá llorar (No One Will See Me Cry) was published by NU Press. Her third novel in English translation is The Taiga Syndrome, out from Dorothy in October—a crime thriller about a nameless ex-detective searching out a fleeing couple that has garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
Rivera Garza’s work explores borders of all kinds, and their liminal spaces: geography and migration, gender, genre, life and death. She professes to have a fluid personality and identifies most strongly as a writer and educator.
Mollie Weisenfeld is an Editorial Assistant at Hachette Books. Her poetry has been published in Folio, Lilith, and Guildscript, and her children’s story was published in Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things (Vol 3, Issue 1). Visit her Facebook @MollieWeisenfeldAuthor for updates on her mocha addiction, worldwide quest for the perfect writing café, and attempts to write everything except the next Great American Novel. Also Twitter @TheMollieJean.
homepage photo of David Chariandy via The Peak at SFU